Wednesday, April 5, 2017

New Player Guide - How to make credits in SWTOR

A lot of people ask how to make a lot of in-game money (credits) in SWTOR (Star Wars: The Old Republic). Usually they provide a useless question like "how do I make a lot of credits" and get a lot of useless answers like "sell item mods". The problem is these questions and answers lack context, the key one being what assets the player has to execute a strategy.

This guide is aimed at new players who are basically starting a new account and have no one to give them a handout. I'll assume that somewhere in between making money you will actually be playing the game. How much time and resource you devote to playing the game is basically up to you and you'll have to adapt this guide to account for it. For example, I pretty much always list for 2 days because I don't want to spend my entire day refreshing GTN sales over all my alts and actually want to play the game!

Further, I'm going to assume you are either Free-to-Play or Preferred and you know how to bank credits in SWTOR until you have enough that the rest can go into escrow. This means we won't talk about making massive-credit moves like buying packs off the Galactic Trade Network (GTN) or trying to control a really pricey item on GTN like Grand Chance Cubes. We also won't talk about investing Cartel Coins into product since that is a limited resource that new players typically don't have much of. Nevertheless you can still literally make millions per day using the techniques outlined here.
  1. When you first start an account, you can make 10 characters as a Free-to-Play account (as of SWTOR version 5.0).
    • You want to make 10 characters and get them all in a guild that can get you access to a GTN kiosk (usually in the guild stronghold or guild ship), Cargo Hold, and Legacy Storage.
    • Make sure you know which characters you're going to keep and which you are planning to or are willing to delete later -- the expendable ones don't need upgrades and must not have credits locked in escrow.
    • You are making the maximum number of characters allowed because as Free-to-Play you are only given 5 GTN slots per character. The more characters you have, the more GTN slots you get, the more credits you can make.
      • For making credits, a very good investment of Cartel Market Coins is in buying more GTN slots. Not really necessary if you are a subscriber since you get 50 slots per character (and a lot more characters available) but getting up to 15-35 slots will help you make a lot of credits daily.
      • 10 characters x 5 slots = 50 slots. This might sound like a lot, but it is actually not, especially when you can't count on every item selling. Also, you will rapidly get more things to sell than you have GTN slots or storage space. When you start regularly getting a large number of items to sell for a good price, you'll want to start investing in GTN slots. However, you should also balance this with how frequently you want to subscribe since credits in escrow are basically just waiting for you to subscribe so you can access them.
        • There are of course Escrow Transfer passes in the Cartel Market, but those are worthless considering how little you can transfer out compared to what you can buy with them.
  2. Start getting your characters to level 10. At level 10 you will receive the Emergency Fleet Pass, signalling your ability to travel to Fleet regardless of where you are in your character's story.
    • Get one character to Fleet as soon as possible to get your Stronghold and to learn Crew Skills.
    • Once you're on Fleet you'll also have access to Heroic Mission terminals which can let you travel to other planets even if you don't have your personal ship from the character story.
  3. Crew Skills
    • For all characters, get Slicing. Once you start getting Lockbox missions, you can start generating credits.
      • Lockbox missions always result in a lockbox that gives you more credits than you spent on the mission. It's random, so theoretically you might only do slightly better than break even -- BUT it is still important because they will provide a basic income from which you will fund all your initial credit-making. With Slicing, you really can't run out of credits to manufacture goods to make you more credits.
    • For your remaining Crew Skills, it is generally a good idea to have some harvesting skills on characters who can get to many planets.
      • The starting planets typically have very little you can harvest except with Bioanalysis and Scavenging to process some enemy corpses. Once you get to Coruscant and Dromund Kaas, you can really start harvesting.
      • If you level a character enough, they can pick up a Heroic Mission from a mission terminal and use the associated Heroic Transport to travel to the required planet -- even without having obtained your personal starship through progress in the character's story. In this way you can position characters to harvest on planets you can't normally get to.
      • Flashpoints can also have enemies you can process, but that's trickier since you have to kill said enemies and unless you enter them solo, groups typically want to move along in the flashpoint than stop to kill everything for materials.
    • For characters who you don't play much and therefore won't be in a position to harvest, assign then Crafting Skills as necessary. For the remaining slots, choose one of Diplomacy, Investigation, Treasure Hunting, or Underworld Trading for each character.
      • Slicing + one other skill = two skills, which is the limit for free-to-play characters unless they purchase a third Crew Skill slot from the Cartel Market. With a 10 character limit, you should still be fine.
  4. Spend some time working on Companion Influence by farming Esseles / Black Talon flashpoints.
    • In the early game with limited resources, this will be expensive. If you are willing to grind, however, you can get your first story companion's Influence up quite quickly by doing Esseles / Black Talon flashpoints solo.
    • Doing these flashpoints will not only get that one companion's Influence up (resulting in better Crew Skill Mission outcomes), but you will typically get good loot to sell right away.
    • Since SWTOR 5.0, the Esseles and Black Talon flashpoints are synced to level 10, even for Veteran Mode so you can run it at Veteran Mode pretty much right away.
  5. While you are levelling your characters / playing the game / doing missions, you will come across various items that are not classified as grey "junk". The easiest thing to do is to sell them to a vendor for quick credits, but if you don't need the credits right away, try selling them on GTN first.
    • This is your initial sales inventory. We'll look into how to manufacture your own inventory, but when you're starting out, that's what you're working with to get you into trying to make credits right away.
      • Transfer items between characters using Legacy Storage in your Stronghold.
    • The price suggested by GTN will be 5x the price you would get from selling it to a vendor. If you don't know what to sell for, try that. But search GTN first to get an idea of the market.
    • There's a lot of guesswork involved in pricing until you get a feel for what will sell for how much, but here are the key things to keep in mind:
      • What you think of as "useless" might still sell. Don't bother trying to discover why, just try to sell at what the market will bear.
      • What you think of as a ludicrous amount might still sell at that price. A good way to tell is to see if a lot of people are listing at that price range every day -- they are probably making some sales at that price. Otherwise they wouldn't bother.
      • Mass-posting and undercutting doesn't always work well. Don't get drawn into a race to the bottom price, especially when you don't yet have the inventory or GTN slots to do it.
      • If you "make a mistake" and under-price it by using the GTN-suggested price, you at least made more credits than selling to a vendor. It's better to do this to clear your inventory of low-priced items on GTN than be forced to sell to a vendor at an even lower price to free up storage space.
  6. Find things to sell
    • Instead of grinding for things to sell, start manufacturing things so you have a reasonable inventory of things that will reliably sell.
      • You can also devote time to grinding/harvesting with whatever toon you are playing, but I am NOT going to assume that you are going to do so. Ultimately you are on SWTOR to play the game, not grind or harvest like a bot. You CAN spend hours harvesting like a bot and hopefully make millions despite being undercut.
      • Or, as you are playing you can run Crew Skill Missions to build an inventory of stuff to sell.
        • It's easy to underestimate this when your Companion Influence is low. But once you get even three companions to 25+ you'll really start to see the difference, especially in Slicing. You can end up with more Schematics than you can sell or store if you aren't careful.
    • Many people have suggestions for what to make that will either reliably sell, or sell for gobs of money. I personally like to run Companion Gift missions from Diplomacy, Investigation, Treasure Hunting, or Underworld Trading. The main reasons are:
      • They are useful items. Considering how many gifts are needed to level up Companion Influence, it is unlikely that the market for these will completely dry up. Unless the Companion Influence system is completely changed, Gifts aren't going to be obsolete.
      • You can use them yourself.
        • It's fine for your production to exceed your ability to sell them because you can definitely use them on your own Companions to get their Influence up. Free-to-play players need only three Companions to maximum level because they can only send a maximum of three on Crew Skills (as of 5.0, subscribers can send 8). Even so, that will require a LOT of Companion Gifts.
          • If you already have three Companions to max, it's still worthwhile to have a fourth in case you need a high-Influence Companion to help fight, so you still have three on Crew Skill Missions.
        • You're not going to get saddled with a huge stack of dead inventory that cost you a lot to manufacture.
      • Your cost to make them is a fraction of what people buy them at from in-game vendors.
      • It's likely that other people have spares. You can try trading for the types you need on a 1:1 ratio.
    • Once your Companion Influence is quite high, around 20+ or 30+, consider switching to Slicing Lockbox missions with the aim of getting schematics now that you have a decent chance of a critical result.
      • You'll likely get a lot for Diplomacy, Investigation, Treasure Hunting, or Underworld Trading. Run them for materials to sell; and for Companion Gifts to use or sell. Inch your Companion Influence higher toward the maximum.
      • If you really have no time for harvesting, then run the Archaeology, Bioanalysis, or Scavenging missions as well. Otherwise try to sell those.
      • Be careful not to focus on only the highest-level Lockboxes (Grade 9) because you may end up with a huge inventory of Grade 9 materials. Instead, start spreading missions around to do some of the lower grades, thus expanding your inventory.
      • In the unlikely case that even the pink/artifact grades don't sell reasonably, you can still use them yourself making something else you can use or can sell, such as Univeral Prefabs to get utility decorations.
    • Buy under-priced things
      • Once you have a handle on how much things sell for, you can start to spot when someone has a severely underpriced listing, and buy that for resale.
  7. Manage your sales
    • If you invest in extra GTN slots, it's helpful to have 15 or 25 per character. This way you can group things to sell on that one character, and just refresh the listing on GTN whenever an item sells or is returned to you Expired.
      • For example, one character with 15 slots could sell 1 stack of each type of Grade 5 prototype/blue Companion Gift. That takes 10 slots, leaving you 5 slots to sell anything on an as-needed or opportunity basis. When you sell one stack of gifts, you don't need to check what you need to re-list since you will just re-list that same type of gift and you know this character sells only one stack of that item at a time.
      • This helps to keep things organized and speed up your day. It is easy to while away hours tending to just your GTN sales over 10 characters, leaving you no time to play the game.
    • Know when enough is enough.
      • Remember you are on SWTOR to play the game, not endlessly make credits. Unless you are a credit-seller, in which case you are in violation of the Terms of Service and are liable to get banned from the game once they discover you.
The tips here should give any starting player a solid foundation for making credits. Once you have a good reserve, go ahead and ask for tips from others and experiment. If you lose your shirt, come back here and make back a fortune.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Titan Quest Anniversary Edition

If you don't remember Titan Quest, it was a Diablo II clone that was gorgeous to see, especially with its wealth of extremely detailed gear. Shortly after it was released, the company folded, citing computer piracy as the chief cause of its shortage of revenue.

Now it's been not just resurrected, but improved -- the Titan Quest Anniversary Edition includes:
  • Restored and improved multiplayer functionality, including new features like a built-in voice chat and NAT resolving for best multiplayer connectivity 
  • Support for more resolutions, larger camera distance and scaleable UI size 
  • Improved performance and general stability 
  • Complete balance rework with improvements to all Masteries, damage types, unique items and sets 
  • Countless bug fixes and other improvements, including ten years’ worth of community fixes 
  • Increased challenges and rewards for larger parties and on higher difficulty levels 
  • Dozens of new heroes and bosses to encounter 
  • Improved enemy and pet AI 
  • Quality of life features like higher stack limits, quick item pickup, a larger stash and a speed setting 
  • Reduced cheating with curbed exploits, removal of test items and mod comparison in multiplayer
And all this at a FRACTION of the original cost, thanks to GOG (Good Old Games).

Friday, March 3, 2017

SWTOR Story Missions You Should Not Skip

Leading up to SWTOR 5.0 (Star Wars: The Old Republic), two profound changes to "story mode" -- playing the game for story rather than grinding repeated content for gear -- have been implemented:
  • Some quest givers have been REMOVED. This is especially true of various Heroic missions. Older guides directing you to various quest givers won't necessarily be valid anymore.
    • This guide is valid for version 5.1.2,
  • Fast-forward-to-Fallen-Empire character tokens have been given out / put out for sale.
If you are new to SWTOR and want to see the story, here is my recommendation for content definitely not to miss, AND the order to do them so things don't appear out of order or present spoilers. If you maintain the quest chain, later quests typically reference your involvement in earlier ones, through token dialogue options you can pick.

For non-class-story missions, you don't really have to do it for every character, just once to see the content and what backstory it provides. Therefore, to reduce the late-game / later-chapter grind of repeating content, consider choosing two characters -- one Republic, one Imperial -- to do all side quests and content. For the other characters, do only the class stories, and a bit more here and there to unlock Daily Missions if you like. To see the relatively minor differences between classes, look to Youtube, such as Roksik's Knights of the Fallen Empire class comparison videos.
  1. Class Stories -- Do all classes.
    • Some class stories actually reference characters and events in others.
    • Do not proceed to Jedi Knight Chapter 2 before finishing Maelstrom Prison (see below).
  2. Esseles and Black Talon Flashpoints
  3. Story Arc: Dromund Kaas.
  4. Story Arc: Belsavis, Imperial side.
  5. Story Arc: Voss, Imperial side.
    • If you also want to do the Republic side, do it first as the Imperial side ending can give you more information than the Republic side
  6. Section X, HK-51 acquisition mission, BUT do not do the flashpoints yet.
  7. Republic Flashpoints - Taral V and Maelstrom Prison. Quest-giver is on Fleet.
  8. Imperial Flashpoints - Boarding Party and The Foundry. Quest-giver is on Fleet.
    • If your character was involved with Story Arc: Dromund Kaas, there is token acknowledgement of this in dialog.
  9. Story Arc: Ilum (Chapter 3 Interlude)
  10. Chapter 4: Rise of the Hutt Cartel -- Republic side first.
    • After Rise of the Hutt Cartel you are automatically given the Shadow of Revan quest. You can safely Abandon it and pick it up later from your Personal Ship mission terminal.
  11. Seeker Droid Missions
    • Might as well also do the Macrobinoculars Missions as they take you to the same planets, although the Shroud story arc appears to start and end with no further follow-up or connection.
    • The Macrobinoculars Missions will also give you some background into The Shroud if you qualify for the HK-55 bonus mission.
  12. Chapter 4 Interlude: Oricon
    • For the ops, finish the Imperial side first.
  13. Chapter 5: Shadow of Revan
    • Prologue: Forged Alliances
    • Shadow of Revan (Rishi and Yavin 4)
      • If you have not finished your Class Story, you will miss a class-specific mission given at the same time as the Blood Hunt flashpoint on Rishi.
      • If you don't want to do stories for all classes, you can see the class-specific missions on Youtube.
    • Epilogue: Rise of the Emperor (Ziost)
  14. Knights of the Fallen Empire
    • Your companions are removed except HK-51 and Treek, if you have them, so it may be worthwhile during the previous chapters to develop them to maximum Companion Influence.
    • The next original companion to return is your ship's droid, either C2-N2 or 2V-R8 -- you can get them back by speaking with them in the Odessan Cantina.
  15. Knights of the Eternal Throne
(to be continued)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

SWTOR Grade 10 Mission Discovery

Ever since SWTOR 5.0 (Star Wars: The Old Republic), Crew Skills were expanded to Grade 10. In case you haven't seen one of the elusive Grade 10 Mission Discoveries... Here are some. We'll update this post as we find more. So far, we have:

  • Slicing
  • Treasure Hunting
  • Underworld Trading

Mission Discovery: Slicing (Grade 10)
Doesn't look impressive and probably not worth a few hundred thousand credits that you might find it for on the Galactic Trade Network.

Slicing 10 Mission Discovery - Flying Factory

The mission resulted in a non-critical result of Code Recombinator x11, Signal Disruptor x4, Grade 10 Credit Case (item roll level 102), and Mission Discovery: Underworld Trading (Grade 10). The Credit Case returned only 5386 credits, which was less than the cost to run the mission.

Mission Discovery: Treasure Hunting (blue grade)
We found what appeared to be a low-level Treasure Hunting mission. It was blue (prototype grade), compared to the usual purple (artifact grade) that Mission Discoveries generally are. We didn't think much of it until we read it, and were surprised by the result, the mission "Secret Games".

Mission Discovery - Treasure Hunting (blue grade 10)

Our Influence Level 50 Jaesa returned a critical success result:

Mission Discovery - Treasure Hunting Grade 10 - critical success result

As is typical of treasure hunting lockboxes, these returned Green items that had a combined sale-to-Vendor value that was less than the cost of running the mission.

Mission Discovery - Treasure Hunting Grade 10 - lockbox content 1

Mission Discovery - Treasure Hunting Grade 10 - lockbox content 2

Mission Discovery: Underworld Trading (Grade 10)
Here's the Underworld Trading Grade 10 Mission we got from the Slicing Grade 10 Mission above.

Mission Discovery - Underworld Trading (Grade 10)

The main thing is you are guaranteed to get pink Artifact-grade materials, which you normally get only on a critical success result on a crew skill mission to yields blue Prototype-grade materials.

Mission Discovery - Underworld Trading (Grade 10) - result

Monday, February 20, 2017

How to save Galactic Command in @SWTOR

The introduction of Galactic Command in SWTOR (Star Wars The Old Republic) 5.0 and the changes in 5.1, brought out many issues in the game, especially in "what players want". On the forums there's basically non-stop repetitive yelling and weeping over various aspects of the game, generally focussing on
  • Developers not listening
  • RNG (random number generation, or basically the randomness of achievement / progression / acquisition)
  • Grind (repetitively doing things)
  • Lack of alt support (having to grind over all alts)
Developers Not Listening
This complaint is probably the biggest problem.
The answer, ironically, is to listen less.
When you open yourself to "suggestions" and have a history of acting on it in some way, you trigger two things:
  • Too many cooks spoil the soup -- Ideas get sidetracked and ultimately derailed.
  • You can't please everyone -- No matter what a lot of people will complain about a lot of things. There will always be complaints and calls for things to change.
Various aspects of Galactic Command (and the game in general) show that the developers are in fact not that good at designing and testing and cleaning up messes -- so much so that players feel justified in giving advice. But that just means they need better focus groups and quality assurance before releasing anything.

RNG *could* work to be interesting / exciting, but it can be very hard to fine tune it. Next time you buy a lottery ticket, you are participating in RNG and you can think carefully about how you feel about it. There's a reason why lotteries give out easier-to-get lesser prizes -- it gives you hope to get at least profit ("get ahead") every now and then. It'd be a very different experience if there were only one prize, a nearly-impossible-to-get jackpot, every time.

In other games you see RNG as essentially a money sink, where players are drained of fairly easily obtained resources in the process of re-trying to get something (usually upgrading gear to the top levels). In SWTOR this essentially happens with Cartel Market packs.
Open enough packs and you will quickly realize that Cartel Market Packs cost you a lot for a good chance of getting rubbish. So much so that people buy packs and resell them on the Galactic Trade Network for literally millions of credits so that they can get something in a non-random way, even if it costs hundreds of millions of credits -- which in those quantities are moderately easy to accumulate without resorting to gold sellers (which are against the Terms of Service).
That's how much the demographic hates RNG. They want the product, not the RNG. Everyone does, really. How much people complain depends on what the product is. And that's the key part: How much they complain depends on what the product is.

It's one thing to sell lottery tickets Cartel Market Packs for ultimately inconsequential things, but a far touchier thing to exchange time grinding with a good chance of getting nothing / going nowhere. And I think that's where the excitement of RNG went completely wrong. You are setting to a lottery something that shouldn't be a lottery -- time and progress.

With SWTOR 5.1 they attempted to supplement the RNG aspect by letting players accumulate various currencies (tokens, gear pieces, etcetera) that are guaranteed to appear in various situations. It's still new so the drop quantity and exchange rate will likely change over time, but the basic idea is you are not completely at the mercy of random drops any more to get bis (best in slot) stuff.

So what to do with RNG? Currencies are actually a good way of dealing with the issue. How and how much the various tokens are obtained need to be tweaked (especially against exploits) but that's a given. What appears wrong with it is grind, and that's a different issue that needs to be addressed.

There are games that are literally all about grinding and people love them. Shop Heroes, for example. The core of the game is crafting and selling, dressed up in attractive graphics, and with various side things to do to break up the tedium. The game keeps going and going by setting incredibly far achievement milestones that take a long time to reach. But no one who plays those games complain about it being "grind"! Why? The SWTOR developers need to look at other "grindy" games and decipher how they don't elicit the same complaints. Here are some aspects to consider:
  • The essential gameplay is enjoyable, even if repetitive.
    • You can't please everyone, so different people will complain about different aspects of the game. Ignore them. For each aspect of the game, listen to who loves it and why.
  • There is something to reach for.
    • Each milestone unlocks gameplay and TRANSFORMS it. Transformation is key -- once you reach a milestone, it must give a new experience to the game -- in a small way making it a "new game".
    • It has to be far enough away and REWARDING enough to feel like an achievement and to make you want to get to the next thing.
  • There is enough gameplay where you are currently at.
    • Because the next tier transforms your game, obviously you want to get there for the benefits. But while you are getting there, you should still be enjoying the game.
In SWTOR, people who complain about Grind are probably people who have exhausted the game and at some level don't like it anymore or need a break from it. They feel entitled to rush to the end and get the best stuff. They actively look for exploits to get there. Nothing in between matters because you pass the in-between stages so quickly. Worse, the developers "listen to the players" and actually help them shoot themselves in the foot with such events as +250% XP / CXP events.

Now that so many players are habituated to this, it's really hard to cure, much less bring in a new demographic of players. With people threatening to unsubscribe and stop income flowing into the game, it gets even trickier to do anything about it. However, I feel the most important step is to STOP LISTENING TO PLAYERS. Well, not exactly cut them off, but limit their influence. Ultimately, as with any other game out there (especially those that have not opened themselves to listening to players too much) you will be left with players who love the game enough to stay and hopefully a new generation of players who aren't spoiled by being able to throw a tantrum to get what they want.

Galactic Command was likely an attempt to introduce a slow-release of content with Tiers 2 and 3 as the rewarding milestones where you got better gear. But it failed because of marketing:
  • The initial incarnation was essentially a loot lottery. Each GC level gave you one chance to get loot and more often than not you didn't get anything worthwhile. It was possible to go through all tiers and all levels and get nothing useful.
  • The end was in sight and with some complaining on the forums, made easier still.
    • Too quickly people saw that it was theoretically possible to get to Tier 3 and maximum level -- quickly enough that nothing in Tiers 1 or 2 mattered.
    • So immediately they set their sights on Tier 3 and a full set of the best gear, and felt entitled to a full set for each character by level 300.
    • And if in their minds it took too long even with various exploits, they complained.
Overall it was a marketing failure -- Too many end-game players latched on to a self-defeating paradigm. And probably too many new players rushed to the same end-game situation, not helped by obscene XP boosts.

What can be done about Galactic Command now?
  • Try to make the continuing gameplay rewarding, if not necessarily more enjoyable.
    • Uncap Galactic Command levels, BUT reserve the right to adjust the exponential rate according to how quickly people are advancing.
      • Suppose it requires a cumulative total of N^r points to get to GC level N. If an adjustment needs to be made, change the rate to N^(r+a). Don't take away levels as a result, but the new total needs to be reached before the next level can be attained.
      • Exploiters can be further penalized by permanently changing their personal rate to N^(r+a+p), in effect forcing them to make up points for those they got through exploits.
      • By uncapping the levels, all current actions continue to accumulate toward a potential future benefit. There is therefore a reason to continue playing.
    • Rebrand the contents of the lottery crates as a bonus rather than a necessity toward getting a set of gear.
    • Make gear rated beyond what you can craft with vendor schematics to be subscriber-only. Also, disable the ability to sell or trade gear beyond a certain rating.
      • Right now, you don't need Galactic Command to gear up -- you can buy the nearly-top-tier Item Modifications off the Galactic Trade Network. This bypasses the whole Galactic Command system such that theoretically you don't need to be subscribed, you just need someone to buy or make the Item Modifications for you and be at level 70. You can be stuck at a very low Command Rank and still have nearly-the-best gear that is hundreds of Command Ranks away.
  • Expand currency exchange
    • Already suggested on the forums: Alternative non-gear rewards. Pretty easy to slowly expand on this one.
  • Remove the lottery
    • Command levels give currencies for exchange only. But continue to track Command Levels AND currency transactions so that the total in circulation/use by each player can be controlled against exploits.
  • Tie the top tier gear to something other than a clearly grindable number
    • For example, specific achievements or tiers of total game Achievement scores might be necessary to use gear currently rated at the topmost 0-8 points of Gear Rating. It's still possible to grind to it, but the array of achievements required and their one-time nature means it's not going to be so straightforward or exploitable.
  • Stop flogging a dead horse
    • With tweaks to the currency exchange rate, and providing various exclusive rewards for currency conversion, Galactic Command can just stay as is. What's more in need is adjusting the game itself, and player expectations, away from instant gratification to milestones to ever expand and transform a player's gameplay experience.
  • Slow down Level Gain
    • Since many multiplayer and end-game activities are level-synced (e.g., PvP), there is actually little reason to accelerate level gain. In fact, levelling too fast brings all sorts of problems, not the least of which are
      • DECREASED game enjoyment from being over-levelled in the stories.
      • Not having the proper time to learn how to use your character's abilities.
      • Uselessness of just about anything you acquire unless it is at maximum attainable /level.
      • A sense of entitlement to instant gratification.
Lack of Alt Support
For players interested in story, it was a huge improvement to be able to re-run chapters of Knights of the Fallen Empire and Knights of the Eternal Throne. It saves players from having to make a new character just to see the various story paths -- addressing in part the issue of too many alts or grinding through story.
Being able to reset more of the game, and especially your choice of character subclass (e.g., Sith Juggernaut versus Sith Marauder) would go a long way to rePLAYability (and somewhat address the issue of too many alts).
For everyone else, the question then becomes why someone would want so many alts. Until that question is answered, any steps toward appeasement are futile and possibly misguided. How many snipers does one need, especially when you can overhaul their specialization at any time?
Suppose someone wanted to be able to play every type of character at some point or other. This is still 16 characters maximum (allowing for respecialization). Any more and they are likely throwaways for Galactic Trade Network slots or exploits to get weekly rewards such as Conquest Points (imagine one person having a couple dozen alts, each doing an ops lockout for Conquest Points).

If there is the ability to change subclass then the need for alts is immediately halved and that could go a long way. Since subclasses still share the same class story (Sith Juggernauts have the same story as Sith Marauders), it's almost a logical step to allow changing between subclasses.
Alt support could then be added by supporting whole sets of quick-keys that do not need to be reconfigured whenever specializations are changed.

With respect to Galactic Command, GC level could be legacy wide -- but with the caveat that the more alts you have, the slower your progress since it is diluted across all max-level alts. This would already be built-in if the idea of Galactic Command for strictly controlled currency tokens is adopted (see above).
In tandem with this, a slowdown in introducing new gear to help players catch up in gearing AND enjoy their new gear -- customized to what is perceived as a reasonable number of maximum alts. If Galactic Command levels are uncapped then players also have a choice to focus on fewer maximum-geared characters or just a few alts, depending on how much time they have sunk into getting Galactic Command levels and the associated currencies.

Friday, February 10, 2017

SWTOR Crafting Supplement Costs

In SWTOR (Star Wars The Old Republic), most crafting schematics require Supplements to make basic building block components (Assemblies, Bonded Attachments, and Cell Grafts). You can get these supplements in three main ways: From Crew Skill Missions (Archaeology, Bioanalysis, or Scavenging), the Crew Skill Vendor, and the Galactic Trade Network. Here is a chart with the comparative costs.
Remember that Free-to-Play and Preferred players buy from the Crew Skill Vendor at 125% normal price.
  • Vendor - Remember that Free-to-Play and Preferred players buy from the Crew Skill Vendor at 125% normal price (rounded down).
  • Mission Cost - This is the cost of a Crew Skill Mission to get the Crafting Supplement. There is a slight chance of total failure, resulting in no materials and no credit refund.
  • Mission (5) - This is the cost-per-unit if the Crew Skill Mission returns the minimum number of units, which is 5 units. Typically a mission returns 5-10 units, or about three times that much on a critical success.
  • Mission (7) - This is the cost-per-unit if the Crew Skill Mission returns the average of 7 units.
  • Mission (10) - Assuming that 1 in 4 missions is a critical success (25% from Companion Influence level 50), on average you will get 10 units per mission.
Grade Vendor Mission Cost Mission (5) Mission (7) Mission (10)
1 10 125 25 18 13
2 50 525 105 75 53
3 100 925 185 132 93
4 150 1300 260 186 130
5 200 1600 320 229 160
6 400 1850 370 264 185
7 600 2100 420 300 210
8 800 2350 470 336 235
9 1200 2600 520 371 260
10 1800 2850 570 407 285

You can see that you are most likely to get your credits' worth if you run Crew Skill Missions for Grade 6+ Crafting Supplements, and you are better off saving time (and often credits) to buy Grade 1-5 Supplements from the Vendor.

However, an additional consideration for Grade 6 Crafting Supplements is running Slicing Grade 9 Lockbox missions instead since you might net just as much in versatile credits.

Therefore, our final recommendation is to run Crew Skill Missions (especially if you are using high-Influence companions) for Grades 7 to 10, and buy Grades 1-6 either from the Crew Skill Vendor or from the Galactic Trade Network where deals might show up at below-Vendor prices.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

SWTOR Banking Credits as Free-to-Play

In SWTOR (Star Wars The Old Republic), accounts that are Free-to-Play or Preferred have a credit limit of 350,000. The excess goes into Escrow and cannot be accessed without the use of Cartel Market Coins.

Here are some ideas for how to bank credits. You may want to bank credits in case you suddenly see a good buy on the Galactic Trade Network and don't want to bankrupt that character -- remembering that as Free-to-Play or Preferred you cannot transfer credits by mail. You therefore need to send things between your chararcters using Legacy Storage.
  1. Meat Trees
    • If you are able to go to Rishi, you can buy Meat Trees in stacks of up to 9999. Each Meat Tree costs 1 credit, but more importantly also sells back to a vendor for 1 credit. Therefore there is no value loss buying and selling them. A full Cargo Bay is almost 800,000 credits banked.
    • Unless you are planning to somehow make multi-million credit purchases (e.g., have someone buy something for you and then pay them back in installments), there is probably no need to maintain several pages worth of Meat Trees, especially if you have a single stack of high-vendor-value items (see below). It is quite tedious to keep going back and forth to Rishi buying stacks, so just let the rest of your credits go into escrow. When you do become a subscriber, all credits in escrow come out immediately with no need for Cartel Coins to access.
  2. Expensive Items
    • Since one inventory slot can hold 9999 Meat Trees for a value of 9999 credits, you may therefore want to hold on to any item you intend to sell to a vendor if the value exceeds 9999 credits, thereby getting more "storage value" for your inventory space.
      • For example, some green level 66 weapons have a vendor value of just over 10,000 credits. The corresponding blue version has the same vendor value, so try to sell those on GTN instead and hold on to the greens.
    • Some consumables that stack can easily exceed a vendor-value of 9999.
  3. GTN Sales
    • Leave your successful sales in your mailbox and redeem them only when you need credits. Watch out not to leave them too long as they might expire and disappear after 30 (?) days.
  4. Reputation Items
    • Once you have maximum reputation with a faction, the reputation-increasing items they award have no value except to a vendor. Keep them around and let them grow into a sizable stack of credit value.
  5. Slicing Lockboxes
    • If you cannot go to Rishi, another way to bank credits is by "converting" them to Lockboxes. Unless a Slicing mission fails, the lockbox you get always nets more than the cost of the mission (though sometimes not by a wide margin). The Lockbox is not Bound so you can put it in Legacy Storage and have another character pick it up (or you can even try to sell it on the Galactic Trade Network).
  6. Treasure Hunting Lockboxes
    • Similar to Slicing Lockboxes, except it is much chancier whether you will profit by a good margin as it's very likely you'll get a green item that will net less than the mission cost when you sell it to a vendor. You can sell what comes out of the box on the Galactic Trade Network but that could take a lot of time and there's no guarantee it'll sell at all.
  7. Companion Gifts
    • Diplomacy, Investigation, and Treasure Hunting all let you have missions to get Companion Gifts. Grade 5 Gifts means for a mission that costs you 1,650 credits you will get a rank 5 blue gift worth 5000 credits (or a rank 5 pink gift worth 10000 credits if the mission is a critical success).
    • You cannot vendor the gift for more than the cost of the crew skill mission, but even if you sold it on the Galactic Trade Network for the same as vendor cost, even after the 6% GTN commission you come out well ahead.
  8. Crafting Supplements
    • Same idea as Companion Gifts -- convert credits into something you are likely to use anyway, and that way "buy" at a huge discount. Grade 6-10 crafting supplements cost much less this way than buying at a Crew Skill Vendor.
    • Note that lower-grade crafting supplements are more costly to get this way, so calculate your Crafting Supplement cost per unit. Typically you can get 5-10 units on a successful mission, and approximately three times that amount on a critical success.
  9. Craftable Consumables
    • Grade 8 Biochemistry consumables (adrenals, stims, med units, medpacks) vendor back at 1400 credits per unit. You get 6 units each time you craft, making them far better than any Slicing lockbox.
      • Strangely, Grade 9's vendor back at LESS than Grade 8's.
    • Similarly, Grade 8 Cybertech grenades also vendor back at 1400 credits per unit.
    • You can of course try to slowly sell some on the Galactic Trade Network, but keep a large stack of a thousand or so for their sell-to-vendor value and you have a compact and easily shared stack of liquid credits.
      • Remember to buy them back from the vendor when you can or temporarily convert a page of Meat Trees (see above) to buy them back and maintain credit liquidity.
    • Obviously for this to work well you need a lot of crafting materials, and if you have to buy them off the Galactic Trade Network your net profit isn't going to be as good.

Monday, January 23, 2017

SWTOR Free Travel to Odessan with Shae Vizla

If you got Shae Vizla as a free companion during the Star Wars The Old Republic Knights of the Eternal Throne pre-order bonus, every character (including new ones) will have a token in the in-game mail allowing you to immediately recruit Shae Vizla.

What you may not know is that she can get you to Odessan for free, even if you don't have your personal starship through the class storyline, or if you haven't started the Eternal Throne storylines.
You will not be able to enter story-related areas on Odessan, but you can still access the common areas, including mission terminals all in one handy place and a more straightforward route to them than Fleet.

Here's how:

  • Recruit Shae Vizla with your token.
  • Open the Companions roster and click on her.
  • Notice the option to "Travel to Contact". Click that.
2017-Jan-23 Shae Vizla free travel to Odessan

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

SWTOR Buying Companion Gifts

In SWTOR (Star Wars The Old Republic), at Companion Influence level 1-39, the most cost efficient gifts are Rank 1 Green (sold by vendors for 200 credits). At Influence level 40+ the effect from gifts is lowest, and most cost-efficient when you use Rank 5 Blue gifts.
Here are charts showing the relative values of gifts, and therefore how much you should pay if you are looking to buy. Despite Rank 5 Pink gifts being slightly overpriced you should still consider them simply because of the time savings involved.

Influence Gain at Influence 40+ (without Legacy Perks)
We based our numbers on the excellent Dulfy article on version 5.0 Companion Influence in SWTOR.
Legacy Perks, which can increase Influence Gains by up to 30%, will influence these numbers somewhat but not by much.

Rank Green Blue Pink Yellow
1 0 0 0 0
2 13 26 51 128
3 26 51 102 256
4 51 102 205 512
5 77 154 307 768
6 102 205 410 1024

Influence Gain Relative to Rank 5 Blue Gifts

Rank Green Blue Pink Yellow
1 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
2 0.08 0.17 0.33 0.83
3 0.17 0.33 0.66 1.66
4 0.33 0.66 1.33 3.32
5 0.50 1.00 1.99 4.99
6 0.66 1.33 2.66 6.65

Relative Value of Gifts

Rank Green Blue Pink Yellow
1 0 0 0 0
2 422 844 1,656 4,156
3 844 1,656 3,312 8,312
4 1,656 3,312 6,656 16,623
5 2,500 5,000 9,968 24,935
6 3,312 6,656 13,312 33,247

Vendors exist for the following:
  • Rank 1 Green - 200 credits
  • Rank 2 Green - 600 credits
  • Rank 5 Blue - 5,000 credits
  • Rank 5 Pink - 10,000 credits
  • Rank 6 Yellow - 250,000 credits
Other Influence Ranks
At different Influence Ranks, different Gifts are more cost-efficient (though definitely not time-efficient in terms of actually giving the gifts):
Short of someone dumping gifts cheaply on the Galactic Trade Network, the cheapest way to get gifts is generally Crew Skill Missions which can get you a Rank 5 Blue gift for under 2000 credits, and a Rank 5 Pink gift if the follower has a critical success.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

SWTOR Flashpoint Influence Farming

As of the 5.0 update, SWTOR (Star Wars: The Old Republic) still allows massive Influence farming with the first companion for all eight classes. Making things easier is the DOWNshift in level-syncing for Veteran Mode (formerly Tactical). Instead of level-syncing up to maximum game level, it down syncs down to level 10, the same as Story Mode.

This means in addition to getting literally thousands of Influence points with your first companion, you can zoom through to get 2 units of Refined Istotope [sic] Stabilizer, the new Tier 2 Exotic Crafting Material for purple crafted gear; as well as Command XP packs.
Influence gains are the same on Story Mode but there are no Refined [Isotope] drops and weaker CXP Pack drops.

Companion Approval nets Influence of course, but Disapproval also nets some small amount of Influence (probably an oversight when they changed the system from Affection to positive-only Influence).

In the charts below (based off the useful early article by Psynister)
  • 1, 2, 3 = The conversation number for Approval or no Influence. If there is more than one number, choose any of them.
  • -1, -2, -3 = The conversation number for Disapproval IF there are no choices that result in Approval (and therefore give more Influence).
  • (..) = Choose any of the conversation options in the brackets.
  • 0 = Choose any conversation option because none of them affect Influence.
The Black Talon

Conversation Vette Khem Val Mako Kaliyo
Sylas 3,3,0 3,3,0 2,0 3,0
NR-02 3,3,0,-1 3,-(13),0,1 1,1,0,1 (13),3,0,-1
Lieutenant 2,3 -2,1 2,3 -2,1
NR-02 3,2,2,2,3,1 2,3,1,2,3,3, 3,2,2,2,3,1 2,3,1,2,(23),(23)
NR-02 / Satele 2,3,2,2,3,2,1 3,0,1,3,1,2,3 2,0,1,2,1,2,1 (23),0,1,3,1,2,3
Holo 3,3 3,1 3,1 (13),(13)
Yadira (12),2 -(12),13 2,2 1,(13)
General -3,-2,-2,1 3,2,2,2 -3,2,-2,1 3,3,2,2
Holo -3 0 -3 0
NR-02 / Moff 0,2,(23),2 3,-3,0,2,2 0,2,3,2 3,-3,0,2,2
Influence 7345 7280 7215 7215

The Esseles
The bonus robot boss requires slicing two terminals at approximately the same time and cannot be done solo except on Story Mode. However, when Grouped, you do not get Influence with your companions even if they are summonned.

Conversation T7-01 Qyzen Corso Jorgan
Passenger 1,1,0,1,1 3,1,3,-3,1 -3,2,(23),1,1 1,1,1,2,1
Haken 0,0,0,0,0,0,0 0,1,3,0,0,1,0 0,0,0,0,0,0,0 0,0,0,0,0,0,0
Narlock 1 13 3 1
Narlock -3,1,1,1,-3,1 1,1,1,-1,2,1 -3,-3,1,-3,1,1 2,2,3,1,1,1
Console -(23),1,1,1,1,1 3,2,-2,1,1,2 -2,1,1,1,1,2 1,2,1,1,1,3
Asara 2,-3,1,1 1,2,2,3 2,-3,-3,0 3,1,1,1
Bridge Control 1 23 3 1
Haken 0,0 0,0 0,0 0,0
Elevator 2,-3,1 2,0,2 3,-3,1 2,1,2
Power Station 1,1 (13),1 2,2 3,1
Hangar Door 1,1,1 2,3 3,(12),3 1,(12),1
Asara 1 1 1 1
Haken 0,0,0,0 0,0,0,0 0,0,0,0 0,0,0,0
Influence 7085 7215 6240 8060